Large and heterogeneous datasets are produced by Earth observation from space, but also by climate research and traffic volume studies on the roads or in the air. These datasets are growing, sometimes exponentially, with the increasing digitalisation of all processes in the scientific, government and economic sectors. Conventional data management and analysis methods are often unable to keep up with the speed of data acquisition. In 2017, DLR founded the Institute of Data Science in Jena to transform 'Big Data' – complex, unstructured datasets – into 'Smart Data', from which conclusions can be drawn and recommendations for action derived. The Institute focuses on concepts for the management, integration and interdisciplinary analysis of very large datasets.
In doing so, the Institute works with data particularly where it originates in the space sector, but also with data from the fields of aeronautics, energy and transport. There are plans to establish close ties with networks, innovative companies and start-ups as a means of fostering digital innovation. Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things, IT security and citizen science are therefore included in the Institute's research topics.
Transforming all areas of life into a digital society will profoundly change product development and production for space applications as well. The term 'Industry 4.0' primarily refers to the evolution of work processes on the way to 'Smart Factories'. Cyber-physical systems (CPS) therefore play a key role from a manufacturing perspective, as they connect objects, systems and environments to produce large-scale networks. This also includes smart products that autonomously connect with each other, organise themselves and exchange data (Internet of Things). In this regard, the focus extends beyond production, encompassing the entire process, from the initial concept through to construction, operation and marketing of missions (Space 4.0). As this gradual establishment of a platform structure progresses, the currently strongly separated lifecycle phases will be connected to a far greater degree by the consequent digitalisation and integration of the Internet of Things. The associated synergies promise more efficient and effective implementation of new mission concepts in the future.
The threat posed by cyberattacks is growing in line with increasing connectivity within the worlds of science and industry. This is particularly true of critical infrastructure such as spaceflight operations, communications networks, time signals and satellite navigation. IT security is therefore becoming an increasingly important topic at DLR.
Citizen science describes how interested members of the public can support work on scientific projects. Internet-based collaboration platforms provide ideal infrastructure in this area. For example, data collected by ordinary citizens on soil moisture or the condition of vegetation in a local environment can be used to calibrate satellite-based Earth observation data.